What is saving your life right now?
There’s a popular poem about JOY, that you may have heard before. It’s an acrostic:
It’s another way of saying, if you really want to be happy in life, you’ll learn to love Jesus more than anyone else, even yourself.
I was taught this way of life as a child. It teaches faith in God and selflessness. But as I became an adult, I began to wonder if Jesus’ own ministry modeled this acrostic of JOY. I asked, Did Jesus never eat, sleep, take retreats, or be quiet from time to time? Christian culture seemed to teach me that Jesus was a robot of activity, never stopping.
But the truth is: Jesus stopped! He napped. He found quiet time just for himself. He prayed often alone. Go read any Gospel and see for yourself. Count the references to these activities. Yet, often it’s not what we model in the church.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at clergy gatherings where colleagues have spoken of “never taking their vacation” or “working from sun up to sun down.”
I can’t tell you how many church suppers I’ve been to where there is little that is healthy to eat.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the joy sucked out of church folks because they don’t ever stop and take a moment to enjoy the life in their own backyards!
What does this say about our faith?
As a child, I was taught salvation is making a stated confession to a community of our sin, repentance, and acceptance of Jesus. It was such a big deal that people would ask, “What was the day that you came to Christ?” And, when you appropriately answered with a markable moment, your salvation story was complete.
But, at Princeton Seminary, my theology, ethics and pastoral care professors challenged me on everything I thought I knew about salvation. They said that salvation is a process of becoming a human being—the human being God designed each of us to be at creation. To be saved, is to be made whole.
There are so many implications of this definition of salvation, if we really embrace it. But an important one is this: that, yes, God calls us to take care of ourselves. Because, there’s no way that you and I can be human if our schedules are out of balance, if we’re eating the wrong foods, or not sleeping enough. And the list of self-care could go on.
And so maybe what is saving our lives looks like this:
Spending time with people who make us happy (even if they’re not the people we should be hanging out with).
Eating foods that our bodies will smile about when receiving (even if it’s not what our mamas cooked growing up).
Taking naps on our days off when we’re tired (even if it means saying no to grandchildren or hiring a babysitter for our kids).
Staying at home some nights, and doing exactly what we want (even if we were invited to an event and should make an appearance).
Activities like eating, drinking, sleeping, walking are spiritual. In fact by engaging in them, we are glorifying God through and with our bodies. We are saying the image of God is in us, and so we must rest and love and breathe as God does.
One professor said about our salvation journey, “My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.”
So, this summer, take some time off to do just this; to become more human. We all need more salvation. Our lives depend on it.